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Tech Tip:General MIDI System, Level 1


Back in the ancient past (1991), the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) and the Japan MIDI Standards Committee (JMSC) got together and added a chapter to the standard called "General MIDI System Level 1." The basic idea was to provide multimedia developers and consumers with an easy way to ensure that when the composer specifies "piano on track 1" that what plays back on every GM system is, in fact, a piano sound on track 1, played at the same pitch as originally defined.

 

The GM standard calls for 24-voice polyphony dynamically allocated from a minimum of 16 MIDI channels. All voices must respond to velocity, pitch bend, and mod wheel information. The sound set includes at least 128 sounds divided into sixteen different families of instruments such as Piano, Brass, Synth, and Sound Effects. Each family consists of eight variations on the main theme. Piano, for example, includes Acoustic Grand, Bright Acoustic, Electric Grand, Honky-Tonk, Electric Piano 1, Electric Piano 2, Harpsichord, and Clavinet.

 

If the GM synth includes drum sounds, the GM standard addresses that as well. Each drum is assigned to a particular key, so, for example, when you play MIDI Note #36, you always get a kick drum. The MIDI channel for GM drums is always channel 10.

 

What the GM standard omits is how these requirements must be met. For example, the piano patch can be a beautifully recorded, layered, and multisampled extravaganza. Or it can be a low-bandwidth sound that only vaguely resembles the real thing. Another example is velocity - it can be implemented in such detail that any one of several layers can be addressed, or as rudimentary as adjusting the note volume. In the real world, however, most sounds are of decent quality and things like velocity are well-implemented. Because of this, the original goals of the General MIDI System Level 1 specification have largely been realized.

 

Here are the patch maps for both instruments and drums for Level 1.

 

GM1 Instrument Patch Map

 

The General MIDI Level 1 instrument sounds are grouped by families. In each family are 8 specific instruments.

 

Note: While GM1 does not define the actual characteristics of any sounds, the names in parentheses after each of the synth leads, pads, and sound effects are, in particular, intended only as guides).

 

Piano Family 1. Acoustic Grand Piano

 

Reed Family
65. Soprano Sax
66. Alto Sax
67. Tenor Sax
68. Baritone Sax
69. Oboe
70. English Horn

71. Bassoon

72. Clarinet

Chromatic Percussion Family
9. Celesta 10. Glockenspiel 11. Music Box 12. Vibraphone 13. Marimba 14. Xylophone 15. Tubular Bells 16. Dulcimer

Pipe Family
73. Piccolo
74. Flute
75 Recorder
76. Pan Flute
77. Blown Bottle
78. Shakuhachi
79. Whistle
80. Ocarina

 

Organ Family
17. Drawbar Organ
18. Percussive Organ
19. Rock Organ
20. Church Organ
21. Reed Organ
22. Accordion
23. Harmonica
24. Tango Accordion

 

Synth Lead Family
81. Lead 1 (square)
82. Lead 2 (sawtooth)
83. Lead 3 (calliope)
84. Lead 4 (chiff)
85. Lead 5 (charang)
86. Lead 6 (voice)
87. Lead 7 (fifths)
88. Lead 8 (bass + lead)

Guitar Family 25. Acoustic Guitar (nylon) 26. Acoustic Guitar (steel) 27. Electric Guitar (jazz) 28. Electric Guitar (clean) 29. Electric Guitar (muted) 30. Overdriven Guitar31. Distortion Guitar32. Guitar harmonics

 

Synth Pad Family
89. Pad 1 (new age)
90. Pad 2 (warm)
91. Pad 3 (polysynth)
92. Pad 4 (choir)
93. Pad 5 (bowed)
94. Pad 6 (metallic)
95. Pad 7 (halo)
96. Pad 8 (sweep)

Bass Family 33. Acoustic Bass 34. Electric Bass (finger) 35. Electric Bass (pick) 36. Fretless Bass 37. Slap Bass 1 38. Slap Bass 2 39. Synth Bass 1 40. Synth Bass 2

 

Synth Effects Family
97. FX 1 (rain)
98. FX 2 (soundtrack)
99. FX 3 (crystal)
100. FX 4 (atmosphere)
101. FX 5 (brightness)
102. FX 6 (goblins)
103. FX 7 (echoes)
104. FX 8 (sci-fi)

Strings Family
41. Violin
42. Viola
43. Cello
44. Contrabass
45. Tremolo Strings
46. Pizzicato Strings
47. Orchestral Harp

 

Ethnic Family
105. Sitar
106. Banjo
107. Shamisen
108. Koto
109. Kalimba
110. Bag pipe
111. Fiddle

Ensemble Family
48. Timpani i
49. String Ensemble 1
50. String Ensemble 2
51. SynthStrings 1
52. SynthStrings 2
53. Choir Aahs
54. Voice Oohs
55. Synth Voice
56. Orchestra Hit

 

Percussive Family
112. Shana
113. Tinkle Bell
114. Agogo
115. Steel Drums
116. Woodblock
117. Taiko Drum
118. Melodic Tom
119. Synth Drum
120. Reverse Cymbal

 

Brass Family
57. Trumpet
58. Trombone
59. Tuba
60. Muted Trumpet
61. French Horn
62. Brass Section
63. SynthBrass 1
64. SynthBrass 2

 

Sound Effects Family
121. Guitar Fret Noise
122. Breath Noise
123. Seashore
124. Bird Tweet
125. Telephone Ring
126. Helicopter
127. Applause
128. Gunshot

 

 

 

 

General MIDI Level 1 Percussion Key Map

 

On MIDI Channel 10, each MIDI Note number corresponds to a different drum sound, as shown below. GM-compatible instruments must have the sounds on the keys shown here. While many current instruments also have additional sounds above or below the range show here, and may even have additional "kits" with variations of these sounds, only these sounds are supported by General MIDI Level 1 devices.

 

 

Note #
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58

 

Drum Sound
Acoustic Bass Bass Drum 1Side StickAcoustic SnareHand ClapElectric SnareLow Floor TomClosed Hi HatHigh Floor TomPedal Hi-HatLow TomOpen Hi-HatLow-Mid TomHi Mid TomCrash Cymbal 1High TomRide Cymbal 1Chinese CymbalRide BellTambourineSplash CymbalCowbellCrash Cymbal 2Vibraslap

 

Note#
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81

 

Drum Sound
Ride Cymbal 2
Hi Bongo
Low Bongo
Mute Hi Conga
Open Hi Conga
Low Conga
High Timbale
Low Timbale
High Agogo
Low Agogo
Cabasa
Maracas
Short Whistle
Long Whistle
Short Guiro
Long Guiro
Claves
Hi Wood Block
Low Wood Block
Mute Cuica
Open Cuica
Mute Triangle
Open Triangle

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